Lightfoot touts 2 programs to help motorists pay growing ticket debt

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration on Thursday introduced a pair of new or enhanced programs incorporated into its 2022 budget to ease the burden on some Chicagoans in debt and bankrupted by the city’s overreliance on ticket revenue.

To loosen the yoke of debt by Dec. 31, Chicago will offer motorists of all income levels a first-ever “fix-it” defense for compliance violations such as an invalid or missing city sticker or expired license plates.

The “fix” defense can only be used once per violation during the lifetime of a license plate. The only requirement for a ticket to be rejected is to purchase and display a valid sticker and dispute the ticket online, by mail or in person by showing proof of purchase.

If motorists provide this proof, any tickets issued for this offense within 30 days of compliance will be dismissed.

The more generous of the two offers is for the city’s 10,733 residents already enrolled in Utility Billing Relief and Chicagoans whose household incomes do not exceed “300 percent of federal poverty guidelines.” That’s no more than $82,250 for a family of four.

Motorists enrolled in the “Clear Path Relief” program will be exempt from red light and speed camera tickets, compliance tickets and parking violations. Expired meter tickets are not covered.

Motorists who pay the initial fine for eligible tickets issued within the last three years will have their oldest eligible debt cancelled.

New tickets issued and paid for on time within one year of registration will be halved.

And penalties will be waived until December 31 on “new eligible unpaid tickets.”

In a press release touting the two programs, Lightfoot noted that “tens of thousands” of Chicago motorists are “placed in greater economic hardship” each year by “accumulated overdue parking debt” they can’t afford to pay.

“With these reforms underway, we hope to provide Chicago motorists with additional options to wipe the slate clean and make payments appropriate to their income level,” the mayor said.

City Comptroller Reshma Soni said the two programs are a natural offshoot of the 2-year-old plan that helps low-income Chicagoans “manage water and sewer bills.”

“We’ve never done anything like this before. … This program will help additional motorists who need financial assistance the most,” Soni said.

Lightfoot campaigned on a promise to raise the start threshold, stop starting for non-moving violations, and eliminate a chunk of red-light cameras if those cameras were used for revenue, not safety .

She kept some of those promises.

The mayor has lowered the threshold for speed camera violations – to just 6mph over the limit – generating an avalanche of new violations.

She defended the lower threshold as essential to stopping a 45% increase in road deaths as speeding was nearly encouraged by empty streets during the pandemic.

Overall, the mayor defended her “slow approach” to debt relief, arguing that vehicle tickets account for $260 million in annual revenue and such a habit cannot be broken today. on the next day.

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